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Bergman, if not Ilse, wanted out of ‘Casablanca’

A new biography of Ingrid Bergman casts fresh light on the making of the 1942 classic “Casablanca,” in which none of its three stars wanted to appear. They never suspected their roles would become the best-remembered of their careers.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A new biography of Ingrid Bergman casts fresh light on the making of the 1942 classic “Casablanca,” in which none of its three stars wanted to appear. They never suspected their roles would become the best-remembered of their careers.

In the newly published “Ingrid,” Charlotte Chandler tells of a lunch Bergman and Humphrey Bogart had before filming. She comments that “Ingrid remembered that the only subject they found in common was how much they both wanted to get out of ‘Casablanca.’ ”

Paul Henreid, newly arrived from Europe, also objected to his casting as Victor Laszlo, the underground leader and husband of Ilse, Bergman’s character. He complained to friend Bette Davis that his secondary role would harm his new career in Hollywood.

Chandler quotes Davis’ reply: “You are wrong, wrong, wrong.” She went on to convince Henreid that “Casablanca” would be a step forward in his American career.

All three stars were concerned that the “Casablanca” script was unfinished. Unanswered was the question of whether Ilse would stay in Morocco with her lover, hard-bitten cafe operator Rick, or escape with her husband. It was agreed to film two endings.

After the first ending was shot — Ilse’s escape with Victor — it was mutually decided that it was the logical ending to “Casablanca.” A second version was never made.

Like three other Chandler biographies (Davis, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder), “Ingrid” is subtitled “A Personal Biography.”

“It’s because I knew the person and spoke with the person and (the book) is based on what they said to me,” she said from her home in New York. “It’s almost autobiographical. I wanted to keep the voice of the person.”

The result is pages of quotes from interviews she had with Bergman. She also includes long commentaries from such figures as George Cukor, who directed Bergman to an Academy Award in “Gaslight”; Hitchcock (“Spellbound,” “Notorious”); her third husband, Roberto Rossellini; and her daughter, Isabella Rossellini.

Hollywood’s love affair with Bergman came to a thudding halt in the early 1950s.

Bergman told the author, “I was having a wonderful career doing what I loved, acting, but something was missing. I didn’t feel fulfilled.”

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She and her husband, dentist Peter Lindstrom, happened to see the Italian movie “Open City.” She was astounded by its realism and came out of the theater “another person.” In New York, she saw another Italian film, “Paisan,” by the same director, Roberto Rossellini. She flew to Rome to meet him.

The result was an instant romance and a movie filmed on an Italian island, “Stromboli.” During the filming, it was announced that Bergman was seven months pregnant with Rossellini’s child and that they planned to marry — as soon as they could divorce their current spouses.

The scandal shook Hollywood to its puritan foundation. She was banned by the studios and castigated by religious groups and women’s clubs. A Colorado senator attacked her on the Senate floor and suggested a bill to protect the United States from foreigners with “moral turpitude.”

“Stromboli” was a flop in the United States, as were other films made by Bergman with her husband. Their marriage was annulled in the late ’50s and Bergman returned to a welcoming Hollywood, receiving her second Oscar — for “Anastasia.”

She made other American and British films in the 1960s and 1970s, including “Indiscreet” (with Cary Grant), “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness,” “Goodbye Again” (Tony Perkins), “The Yellow Rolls Royce,” “Cactus Flower” (Walter Matthau) and “A Walk in the Spring Rain” (Anthony Quinn). She won her third Oscar for her supporting role in “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Bergman won an Emmy as Israeli prime minister Golda Meir in the TV drama “A Woman Called Golda.” It was her final role.

Chandler said she first met Bergman at Cukor’s house in Hollywood and interviewed her on other occasions.

“She was the most trusting person,” the author recalled. “She saw everyone as a friend. She had a kind of openness and innocence that she had all her life.”

The last interview took place in London shortly before her 1982 death from cancer.

Chandler recounted that Bergman had recently viewed “Casablanca” “with an audience that loved the film, and she felt what they felt.”